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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Sorrow of War: The Power of Poetry

Some students might know John Hess as the professor that always offers a piece of his muffin to the class before it starts. At times, somebody takes a piece, and others not. A poetry reading, given by Milton for Peace, will be held Sunday, October 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Milton Academy, in the Straus Library, on 170 Centre Street in Milton. Milton for Peace is a group of neighbors committed to peace and anti-war activities around the world. The poets reading will be Dave Connolly, Thanh Nguyen, Nguyen Ba Chung, and Michael Casey. An introduction will be given by John Hess. Connolly and Casey are both Vietnam veterans, and Nguyen and Chung both survived the Vietnam War as civilians.

The opening lines of the essay that he will read at the library, entitled “The Sorrow of War, The Power of Poetry,” state that, “Orwell, no one understood propaganda better that Orwell, once said that in our time no war would – ostensiblely – be fought for crass and vulgar reasons. All wars would – ostensibly – be fought for the highest ideals,” Hess commented that the media drives it into us that wars are indeed fought for the highest ideals, but it is individual people that are the ones who fight them, and suffer the consequences. All the poets at the reading have lived through the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Professor Hess said, “During Vietnam, they just wanted bodies. If you went to college, you didn’t have to join. I dropped out of college, but they didn’t find me for a year.” He never ended up there, and he said that during that time, nobody wanted to go.

Hess said that he considers the best poetry to be war poetry. The Illiad was the first war poem; it was an epoch and it was essentially anti-war. It portrayed war as horrific, so as to dissuade the readers from it. Hess said, “Hopefully some great literature will come out of this war, if nothing else.”

When asked if Americans still live in a bubble, even after September 11, Hess said that it’s changed a little, but we’re still more concerned with having a good life than survival. People in other countries are more concerned about everyday existence. He quoted Desmond Tutu when he said, “How do you feel if someone says, the people who died in the World Trade Center were collateral damage? Say that to someone who lost a wife or a child. It’s an obscenity. It’s in order to say, they don’t have faces, they don’t have names.” And he went on to say, “God is weeping because – one of the most incredible things is that Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, George Bush are all God’s children. And God says, ‘What ever got into me to create that lot?’ And then God sees some of you, all of you, all of you who care, and God then begins to smile through the tears. Please, God wants peace. God wants prosperity for everyone. And do you know what? I have yet to meet people more generous than Americans. And I’m not being smarmy. I have experienced it. My family has experienced it on a personal level. Why don’t you export your generosity, you compassion, and not bombs?”

All such issues will be on the floor for discussion and debate on Sunday afternoon October 17. For more information the website is www.MiltonforPeace.eboard.com.